Friday, March 14, 2008

EEI Members Call for More Accurate Climate Cost Projections in CRA study

As I discussed here before, the Charles River Associate (CRA) study that is being used by the Chamber of Commerce and others claiming that the Lieberman-Warner bill will generate "catastrophic" economic costs is incredibly flawed.

Now -- it appears, that many of the members of EEI (Edison Electric Institute), the energy association that paid for the study, agree that the study is flawed and should be more responsible. The story below discusses the efforts many of the power generation sector is taking to try to make sure that the flawed study is re-done -- an interesting development to say the least!

The Energy Daily

Nuclear Utilities Press For Changes In EEI Climate Costs Study

March 5, 2008

Under pressure from a coalition of member companies with abundant nuclear generation, the Edison Electric Institute has agreed to direct economic consultant CRA International to make modest changes in assumptions underlying a controversial CRA analysis that projects sharply higher cost impacts from Senate climate change legislation than predicted by other analyses.

A draft presentation of the CRA analysis, obtained last month by The Energy Daily, examined legislation (S. 2181) by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R- Va.) to establish a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program on most of the U.S. economy beginning in 2012.

The analysis concluded the legislation would sharply increase electricity prices, force many power companies to switch from coal-fired generation to natural gas and impose an average cost of $1,500 on every U.S. household by 2015.

The CRA analysis drew immediate criticism from a variety of stakeholders in the national climate change debate, who charged that unrealistic assumptions in the CRA model led the consultant to conclude, for example, that carbon dioxide (CO2) allowance prices in 2015 would reach $64--a price projection far higher than what other studies have predicted.

CRA assumed, for example, that no utilities would take advantage of provisions in the bill that allow the banking of emission allowances and the use of international emissions offsets to reduce compliance costs. CRA said the emission caps in the early years of proposed mandate are so severe that utilities will need all their allowances, and that European Union countries will scoop up all the available overseas offsets.

The analysis also assumed that a Carbon Market Efficiency Board (CMEB) the bill would establish would take no action to limit sharp allowance price increases, as the bill would authorize.

The CRA study prompted behind-the-scenes moves by several members of EEI who also belong to the Clean Energy Group (CEG), a coalition of utilities whose generation portfolios include robust percentages of nuclear, natural gas and renewable resources. The CEG companies for weeks have pressured EEI to change some of the underlying assumptions in advance of a new CRA modeling run on the Lieberman-Warner bill.

EEI has agreed to include in the new CRA analysis provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA)--approved in December--that tighten federal fuel economy requirements for motor vehicles, boost alternative fuel use and strengthen efficiency standards for appliances and buildings.

In addition, CRA will also incorporate results of the Energy Information Administration's analysis of S.2181--including an expected change in EIA's baseline "reference case" used to model future U.S. energy use--as well as the findings of a separate Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the bill. Both the EPA and EIA analyses are expected later this month.

In a March 4 letter to EEI President Thomas Kuhn obtained by The Energy Daily, the chief executive officers of seven CEG utilities urged EEI to change other assumptions in the CRA analysis, including those concerning the use of allowance banking and international offsets; actions the CMEB might be expected to take to reduce the costs of the cap- and-trade program; and provisions to reduce the impacts of higher energy prices on low-income households.

"We think this is a positive and important development, and we believe the CRA analysis will be both more robust and received as more reliable with the additions you have indicated," the CEG letter said, referring to the changes EEI has agreed to make. "In our view, it is critical that EEI be viewed as a credible voice in the climate change debate. It is our hope that EEI's work will allow members, Congress, the administration and other interested parties to make informed decisions about various policies and proposals before them in terms of impacts on our industry and our customers."

The letter was signed by the CEOs of Avista Corp., Constellation Energy Group, Entergy Corp., Exelon Corp., FPL Group Inc., National Grid and PG&E Corp. and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.

A CEG representative said the CEOs "are planning to be very much involved and on top of the whole EEI process" as the CRA analysis proceeds.

"The message between the lines is that these companies are going to be insisting that EEI have a more balanced approach throughout the climate change debate and represent the collective views of all EEI members and not just the views of the coal generators," the CEG representative said.

An EEI official told The Energy Daily Tuesday, however, that--aside from including the EISA provisions and the expected EIA reference case changes--EEI has not decided if it will direct CRA to make other changes, such as accounting for banking and the use of international offsets.

"We're still considering what we are going to do," said Bill Fang, EEI deputy general counsel and climate issue director. "We'll have to consider all that. CEG has raised some good issues, but other member companies have raised other issues. We have to get the views of other companies."

The national advocacy group Environmental Defense, in a February critique of the CRA study, called the analysis "a dramatic outlier when compared to a range of economic models maintained by researchers in academia and government. For example, CRA's estimates for the impact of the bill in 2015 on greenhouse gas emission prices, GDP figures and electricity prices are 75 percent to 300 percent higher than those found by a study done by researchers at Duke University and Research Triangle Institute."

The CRA cost projections also are sharply higher than those found in an analysis of the bill by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Clean Air Task Force, which concluded CO2 emission allowances would cost about $17 in 2015, nearly 75 percent less than what CRA projected.

Fang countered, however, that CRA's assumptions for the likely penetration of new nuclear generation are less optimistic than in other studies and more optimistic for the deployment of new renewable generation.

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